How to properly clean and sanitize your fermenting drum to improve the quality of homebrew beer

Sunday, October 29, 2023
The craft of brewing beer is as much an art as it is a science. Just as crucial as the brewing process itself is ensuring that your tools, especially your fermenter, are impeccably clean and sanitized. In this in-depth guide, we explore the steps to keep your plastic beer fermenting drum in top-notch condition.

Clean vs. Sanitize: Understanding the Difference

It's essential to highlight the distinction between cleaning and sanitizing. Cleaning refers to the removal of visible debris and residues. In contrast, sanitizing aims to eliminate any lurking microorganisms that could spoil your brew. While a clean fermenter might appear spotless, it may still be a haven for unwanted bacteria and bugs, especially in tiny, almost invisible scratches.

So sanitize with Star San. like this alien creature...

cleaning your fermenting drums

The Comprehensive Guide to Cleaning Your Fermenter

Upon completing your bottling session, it's a good practice to immediately attend to your fermenter. Procrastinating this chore can lead to a more challenging cleaning experience later on.
  • Immediate Disposal: Start by disposing of any leftover residue at the drum's bottom. This residue can be quite nutritious, making it an excellent addition to your vegetable garden.
  • Initial Rinse: Use a garden hose to give the drum a thorough rinse, ensuring that any visible debris is washed away.
  • Deep Cleaning: For a more profound cleanse, boil water and pour it into the drum along with a generous spoonful of sodium percarbonate. This combination, when sealed and shaken vigorously within the drum, acts as an effective cleaning agent, ensuring a deep cleanse.

Choosing the Right Cleaning Agents

While ordinary household detergents might seem like a convenient choice, they may leave behind unwanted odors and residues. If you do opt for this route:

Avoid abrasive scrubbing tools. These can create micro-scratches in the fermenter, turning them into breeding grounds for bacteria.

Opt for a soft rag for cleaning. Whether it's a purpose-specific cloth or your finest linen, the goal is to avoid scratching the fermenter's surface.

For those who prefer a more aggressive cleaning approach, strong agents like caustic soda or bleach-based cleaners are available. However, these come with their own set of challenges, mainly the risk of residues. 

You cannot go wrong using sodium percarbonate as a cleaner.

Whenever working with chemicals, prioritize safety. Always wear protective eyewear and gloves to prevent any accidents.

The Sanitization Process

After cleaning, a thorough sanitization process ensures that any lingering microorganisms are eradicated. Before your next brewing session, give your fermenter another round of sanitization to ensure it's in the best possible condition.

In Need of a New Fermenter?

Has your fermenter seen better days? If it's time for a replacement, consider ordering a new one online. Remember, a well-maintained fermenter is key to a successful brewing experience. Keep yours in peak condition, and your brews will surely thank you for it.
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